Spring Cleaning in Tidy Switzerland – No Picnic for a Pack Rat

P7100476_copyOh great, it is that time of year again. Spring! Uh oh, spring cleaning. Since winter dragged on, I procrastinated a few extra weeks, but now the sun shining throughout my humble abode highlights my shortcomings. I may have been a couch potato all winter, but my oh my, the other creatures in the household have been busy. Spiders spun webs from each corner, fingerprints divided and multiplied on every glass surface, dust bunnies reproduced like mad under the bed, and books proliferated in quadruple stacks on the shelves.

Oh woe is me. Where to begin? Spring cleaning is an insurmountable task for someone born without the clean gene.  I would prefer things orderly, but my brain is so scrambled, picking up never comes naturally. I jump from one activity to the next and never finish any task for I am easily sidetracked. Books remain open half-finished by my bedside, fragments of articles cover my computer desktop, and shoes lay where they left my feet.

Last fall, when I found out that we had to start paying for garbage in Switzerland in 2013, I had the best intentions and looked at my old list of tidying up tips. Good intentions gone awry. Six months later, I stare at the mess and think where to begin?

My kids have grown and flown, yet their bedrooms remained untouched like shrines to the past. Every time I launch Operation Toss Out, I am immobilized by memories. I plan a Clean Sweep and open a closet ready to chuck games, toys, and dolls, but the sight of Beanie Babies, Little Ponies and Little Woodsies, leaves me immobilized lost in a reverie.P7100501

Instead, I open a box of books: I’ll Love You Forever, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Bunnies Get Well Soup spill out. Before you know it, I am in a rocking chair, reading Good Night Moon to my daughter’s Cabbage Patch doll perched on my knee. I drag junk out of the closets to discard and instead end up driving my son’s matchbox cars ‘round and round on a braided rug and snapping pieces together of his old Play Mobile cowboy fort.

The world is divided into pitchers and savers. Pitchers relentlessly toss items knowing that if it hasn’t been used for a year, it is no longer needed. I obey the law of inertia.

Apparently, the predisposition for this disorder is genetic. My daughter blames me for what she calls her apartment’s permanent state of entropy, “matter when left to its own devices will descend into chaos.” I am quoting a doctor here.

You would think I love living in disarray. Yet I prefer being at my sister’s house where everything is in order. You can open the frig without launching an attack of mystery meat morphed into extraterrestrials. You know precisely which drawer to open to find an envelope, a pen, and a notebook. Living in my house is like forever being on a scavenger hunt without a team to help hunt down the clues.

Realistically, our home is too big for the two of us. Downsize! But how? I am a sentimental old sod, clinging to memories of the past without a single organizing cell in my soul. If only we lived on the other side of the Big Pond, spring cleaning would be a breeze. I could own a five-car garage with one spot for my vehicle and four other places to park my treasures.

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Posted in family, humor.


  1. Oh my! How I can relate to this, but only temporarily. Having moved around – A LOT – for years on end, our family’s deal was, “Anything you haven’t used in two years goes!” But now we’ve been parked in Boston for nearly 9 years. I know it’s time for a “Pretend-we-are-moving clean out,” but I am paralyzed also by the memories. With our off spring still in ‘what if I need it when I get my apartment’ mode, it’s tough to give too much away.
    But just yesterday my middle daughter, recently returned home from med school, showed me how it is done. Several trips to the dump with her junk and repeated revelries of, “This feels so good!” made me envious and determined to pick some dates this summer for a stay-cation. I will force my husband into every closet, drawer and shelf to help me clear out. Nine years is too much!
    Thanks for the inspiration and affirmation that this needs to be done.

    • Yes, Tina, like you we used to move about every 2 years which kept things under control. Now we have been in this house for 12 years and it has gotten out of hand. Ask Kat if she wants to come back to Switzerland to study for exams and sort me out!

  2. LOL, Pat…I can relate. I, too, wait for “just the right day” to clean, start in one area and get sidetrack and, voila, a bigger mess! This week, the sun came out and I opened my clothes closet and counted 14 pairs of black pants. I am now down to 6 pairs and the rest have been delivered to Good Will. Enough cleaning until next year!!

    • Gosh, Barb, 14 pairs of black pants…this made me feel better until I started counting. Although I only have 1 pair of black dress pants, I have 9 pairs of black sweatpants! I will bag 3 of them and follow your example, “Voila, enough cleaning until next year!”

  3. Patty,
    still laughing over this blog….and Oh No! I realize I am more like sista Pat than sista Sue in the “organize and pitch” category! Absolutely love the paragraph about reading Good Night Moon to Nat’s cabbage patch doll…..Today is the perfect spring day to rev up that much needed spring cleaning, but I much rather go for a walk, lunch outside with friends, bike ride and play with the dog! Thanks for the laughs and to remind me, I am not the only pack rat in the family! 🙂

    • Yes, sister, we were shortchanged when it came to the Clean Gene. Hopefully, when Sue retires she will make the rounds and give all of our homes a clean sweep a la Su-Su.

  4. hahaha patty, I must be related to you…no so sure about Susan. Although I am not nearly as bad as Nat, I am the worst in the Carlson household and i’m proud of it! But no so much the pack-rat, just the un-tidiness 🙂

  5. I’m quite organized. I love to get rid of things (donate, usually). But when I read about the baby books, ooh, I don’t know how I would get rid of those! I still have some of my own! From half a century ago!

    • Lynne, we all have weaknesses and yes those baby books are one of them. But how do I explain my bizarre attachment to every sweatsuit, t-shirt, and Tupperware container I continue to horde?

  6. I think before Spring cleaning can begin, we need to have Spring arrive!!! I did not realize that your sister Karen was so neat and tidy, when did this happen? With 4 young adults with their piles in our basement, I think we are waiting for retirement, then just sell the whole house-everything included. Or maybe, we can put an addition onto the lake house and start new there.

    • Ha ha Dick. What would the Big Kids do without their free storage garage in your basement. Great idea for the cabin though, we can build a 5 car garage this summer, then each family would have their own place to store their toys and old t-shirts.

  7. Okay, you inspired me to finally start my own spring cleaning. What do we all do with those Beanie Babies, though???!!

    • Lois, I think I’ll dress all the Beanie Babies in doll clothes and use them to decorate each holiday: squirrels & chippies for Thanksgiving, bears for Christmas, bunnies for Easter.tee hee

  8. You are funny. And I relate too well. But I will never throw out Goodnight Moon or the Runaway Bunny. Not ever. Except we are seeking our house and we need to downsize. I think I’ll go take a walk instead. Those dusty bunnies and spider ends can wait another day. Spring is good for more than cleaning.

    • Oh absolutely, why waste a sunny day spring cleaning. Yes, hang on to Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny…soon you will be reading them to your beautiful grandson.

  9. Pack Rats of the world UNITE! LOL I often have good intentions, but it rarely goes much farther than that toward eliminating some of the clutter! I know I’d feel better if I DID, but ahh well! 🙂

  10. I love it, Pat! I can so relate. My daughter tells me she has inherited the pack rat, clutter gene from me and I got it from my mom. We’re not quite hoarders, but oh my gosh after 27 years in this house, we have way too much stuff! Every year, I say “this summer, when we’re all finished with school…” we’ll clean out the house. Let’s see how far we get this year!

    • Oh my, Teri, if I lived for 27 years in the same house, I would have collected so much junk that I’d have to buy the neighbors house just so I had a place to sleep at night.

  11. As one who definitely has “the clean gene,” I empathize with your plight, Pat. I hate clutter and find it hard to work when there are stacks of stuff and dust bunnies lying around, demanding my attention. Of course, “clutter” doesn’t include memories. Those, I don’t want to erase OR part with (my son’s toys, awards, etc.)! I think that’s why so many people in the States have storage sheds outside, to store their “clutter”!!

  12. Oh Pat, how I can relate to your quandary! I spent yesterday sifting and sorting through my own clutter that was driving me insane and ended up heaving what felt like my whole nursing career into the trash. I guess it took several years to be ready to do it. But when it came to the huge basket of get well cards sent to me during my cancer journey, I had to put it aside. Not quite ready to let go of those treasures that kept me uplifted when it mattered the most. It is an emotional experience indeed as you have shown in this wonderful post that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Bittersweet!

    • Kathy, I will be like you when I retire from teaching and want to save every lesson plan. You have made progress in the cleaning, I talk a big game, but I have yet to attack any of it. I also have boxes full of supportive cards that lifted me up during my health battles. I even have what I call my shelf of inspiration with old photographs, special notes, cards, mementos, and souvenirs. However that shelf hasn’t been dusted since the ’80s. ha ha

  13. Loved this post! I am avoiding spring cleaning at all costs. I too have hibernated all winter while the spiders have spun and dust kitties (feline equivalent to dust bunnies) have accumulated. Now we are leaving town for two weeks and I’d like to come home to clean, uncluttered rooms, but I fear it isn’t going to happen. What with unpacking and doing laundry from a 5-day trip this past weekend and only a few days before beginning to repack for the next trip, how could I possibly fit a vacuum cleaner, a dust cloth, and mop into my plans?? I think the clean gene dispenser passed me by in the birthing room, never to be seen again!

    • Oh yes, Sherrey, who wants to spring clean when the road is calling. Happy packing, the housekeeping can wait. After all if you tidy up now no one will be around to see your handy work.

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